SocraticGadfly: 'Our Man Downtown': John Wiley Price HAS BEATEN the rap (so far)

April 26, 2017

'Our Man Downtown': John Wiley Price HAS BEATEN the rap (so far)

Having lived in Dallas — specifically the Best Southwest suburbs — most the previous decade, I'm familiar with John Wiley Price. Indeed, as a newspaper journalist, I've met him a few times, and reported on a few events in which he was involved, as part of my suburban newspaper group was in his county commission precinct.

Regarding his current federal trial, do I think Price has done some ethically slippery things? Hellz yes. Do I think they're legally slippery? Also, ditto.

(Update, April 28: Hung jury on the tax charges, and acquitted of the bribery and mail fraud charges that Judge Barbara Lynn said she was likely to dismiss anyway due to prosecutorial incompetence or worse.) ‡

That said, there IS the irony of D Magazine's piece about him, "The Hustler," written by later Dallas mayor Laura Miller, who turned out to be pretty much of a hustler herself, although not one likely committing illegalities.*

As for the claims about business shakedowns, or trying to force people to use JWP-connected businesses for certain things, let's just say that, off the record, I've heard stuff myself. Stuff related to freeway expansion and bridges.

Beyond what the Observer, in this piece about five key trial points, and the Snooze have reported on Richard Allen's Dallas Inland Port ideas, I heard some bits myself about the port. The stuff in the paragraph above relates to development a couple of years before that.

And it's not racial. JWP will, from what I've read, heard, and seen, hustle you no matter your race.

And, per a quote he gave the Snooze after Judge Lynn officially killed the trial on the hung charges? Yes, he will be so transparently hypocritical as to be laughable:

That's worse than Jesse Jackson's Seuss-speak. And JWP's only god, at least in this world, is JWP.

Do I think what he was on trial for is illegal in the actual legal sense of the word? No. As in, I don't think the prosecutors have the goods on him beyond a reasonable doubt.

And, that was even before their most recent clusterfuck on discovery issues last week. It's part of a whole series of prosecution clusterfucks. Frankly, I think Judge Barbara Lynn should have gone ahead and pulled the plug last week with a mistrial ruling. It would have done both Price and the feds a favor — and hopefully would have done southern Dallas County voters, and Democrats, a favor as well. Don't forget that Dwaine Caraway's lawsuit against JWP is still working its way through the court system.

Our Man Downtown could have reviewed his defense strategy. He also could have started doing reflections about not running for re-election again. Meanwhile, Dallas County Dems could also start talking about nudging him out, and/or recruiting a primary opponent if he won't leave peacefully. That's the favors for everybody else. There's three full years until his next election year. If Dems won't recruit somebody, that shows their own problems in Dallas County. And they've got them. For years, despite repeated evidence she's nothing but a neoliberal hack, nobody's primaried Eddie Bernice Johnson. That said, with things like Kwanzaafest, JWP's a better retail politician.**

Meanwhile, the feds could figure out if they've got a viable case against OMD, and if they don't, then drop it. If they do, then devote the manpower to ironing out their presentation before the next trial. And get new prosecutors involved.

But, since Judge Lynn didn't do that, a jury starts deliberations Tuesday, after closing arguments. Price's lawyer was brilliant not only in not calling him to the stand, but in wrapping up his case on Thursday, giving jurors plenty of time to think about the feds' incompetence. At a minimum, if JWP is convicted, he's got clear grounds to ask for a new trial. Lynn would have been better having everybody start over for that reason, even though this case has drug on for years already.

Judge Lynn first gave JWP a partial break, saying she will likely toss the six mail fraud charges even if the jury convicts. If she does, in my non-legal opinion, I'm not sure how the conspiracy charge stands; that leaves "only" the tax evasion.

And, ADA Simonton's response sounds like foot-stomping, further indicating how weak the gummint's case is.

A way out of the thicket might be, if Lynn's not going to do the mistrial route, for JWP to take a nolo on one tax charge, agree to cut the appropriate check to the IRS, and agree to immediate resignation in lieu of serving any time in the clink.

But I doubt Price would take such a deal. And, maybe he shouldn't.

The prosecution's closing argument was as weak as its trial presentation. Katherine Miller, to my eyes, essentially argued that Price should be tried for violations of county ethics police. If County Judge Clay Jenkins and two other votes on the Commissioners Court want to censure Price, go for it. Not Katherine Miller's job, though, if OMD didn't commit criminal offenses. Such censure, with the rest of the court 3-1 Democrat, and Jenkins still giving no clear appearance that he's anything more than Price's water boy, is not likely.

‡ The feds have one month, per Lynn's mistrial order, to decide whether or not to retry him on the tax charges. Whether they will or not depends on how much they indulge whatever mix of stubbornness, frustration and embarrassment prosecutors feel right now.


* Laura Miller's legal hustles have basically involved being suck-ups to much of the Dallas business class she excoriated when working at the Dallas Observer, then doing that in spades after leaving the mayor's office.

** Now that Eddie Bernice's district goes out in the 'burbs more and more, not just city of Dallas, somebody smart from said 'burbs, which she never visited until my last month on the job, would be the ideal candidate to challenger her.

(While we're at it, Yvonne Davis is another long-term south Dallas black politico who needs to leave or get pushed out, as this year's performance in the Texas Lege shows.  And don't even get me started on Helen Giddings.)

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